By Pamela Webber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs
When it comes to raising brand awareness, small businesses have options. Here are a few of the best ways to accelerate brand awareness for immediate and profound results.
1. Engage in Social Media.
Small businesses can use social media to build a brand fast. Done right, you can reach many users quickly with relatively little direct monetary cost.
But, you must invest significant time into understanding how social media can work for you. Remember that social media relationships, just like real-life relationships, should be sincere and reciprocal. Reach out to others and respond when they reach out to you. Show up every day, and offer something of value, whether that is a clever joke, a supportive comment, or an insightful observation. Use social media to make your small business a living, breathing brand that addresses customers’ concerns and passions.
One way to get into the conversation quickly is to capitalize on social media trends. New stories and trends develop every day. Small businesses can use social media to leverage these trends to build brand awareness in the context of our cultural dialogue. In addition to scheduling tweets, Facebook updates, and Instagram posts regularly, and to using other channels like Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, and Periscope, small businesses can wake up every morning with the intent of leveraging the power of pop culture and social media. From pop star drama, to goliath sporting events, to notable storms, to even National Hamburger Day, you can use hashtags to express your brand’s personality. You can be funny, serious, or controversial, just like any other larger business – though always be true to your brand values.
2. Partner with Like-Minded Businesses.
By developing online relationships with like-minded businesses, organizations, and publications, you can increase awareness of your brand more scalably than by reaching out to customers one by one. If your business sells sunglasses, for example, reach out to a hotel brand that has chains along beaches and in tropical locations. Offer to advertise their business through your sunglass brand’s digital properties, and see if they’re willing to reciprocate. Contact golf organizations with cross-promotional opportunities. Connect with health publications and offer to provide content about how sunglasses are an important part of protecting your eyes from the sun. If you have little value to exchange in terms of your own customers, offer partners a promotional price for their customers to garner their support.
3. Treat your Best Customers Better.
Consumers don’t just want to buy something – they want to be part of something. Your best customers make it obvious to you that they want to be part of your “something” as they have either voted with their voices or their wallets. Embrace these customers and provide them with a level of service that validates their decision to support your brand. By creating a sense of exclusivity–this curated community of consumers will feel privileged and honored to be affiliated with your brand.
One way to do this is to offer a scaled membership program. Large brands like American Express, which offers green, gold, and platinum cards, each with specific perks, or major airlines like United, which offers frequent flyer programs that turn miles travelled into rewards points, redeemable for future trips, are great examples of effective programs.
By using the same strategies employed by the big guys, you can create your own tiered system, with more personalized customer service solutions, leaving your best customers more satisfied and hungry for more. The happier a customer becomes, the more likely he is to spread the word, raising the awareness of your brand in a positive light.
4. Encourage Sharing.
Find a way to get your current customers to share their love for your brand. For example, everyone loves the idea of winning something for free. Even the smallest business has something it can give away to a lucky customer – from merchandise to public recognition. Offer customers the opportunity to win something if they share your business on Facebook. You can have routinely scheduled contests – every week or every month – that customers not only appreciate, but also can learn to expect. This generates consistent excitement and keeps customers coming back to participate and share your offering, which generates more brand awareness and exposure. Consider sending your customers coupons that they can use and share with friends. If you have a business with a physical presence like a restaurant, hold a “buy a friend a drink night” and offer a free drink for each customer that brings a friend. These types of share-with-friends programs tend to generate impressive word-of-mouth advertising, the most powerful form of brand awareness.
Pamela Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for driving customer acquisition and increasing lifetime value of customers. In addition to her experience as a marketer, Pamela brings a host of first-hand experience as an ecommerce entrepreneur and working with fast-growing startups.